Welcome to the first installment of #MomBoss, a series of blog posts where I feature mama’s who are running their own show on their own terms. Whether they are entrepreneurs, small business owners or executives, these women are chasing dreams and toddlers, and doing it all for the dream. In this series I hope you will be introduced to women who can inspire you and that you can even discover local businesses you can support. Mom’s supporting moms. Nothing better!
First up are the local ladies of Cucubau Kids (say it with me: ˈkʊku- bou) a local vintage online retailer carrying items for children from birth to age 5. I first discovered Cucubau Kids on Instagram, and quickly became obsessed. I immediately subscribed to their updates, ensuring that I never missed a must have item in Lucas’ size. It wasn’t until I had a certain item in mind that I actually reached out to them. I was hunting for a pair of vintage Oshkosh overalls and as a shot in the dark, I decided I would ask them if they had them hanging around. I truthfully was not expecting to hear much back from them, so imagine my surprise when I not only heard back promptly, but they had the exact item I was looking for in multiple sizes and colours! After a couple of DM conversations I came to realize that owners Jackie and Erin are, amongst many other things, Oshkosh experts. They hoard a vast collection of American made items from the 80’s. I was sold.
I quickly went from follower, to customer, to full-fledged fan. I wanted to know more, so I asked Jackie and Erin if they would sit with me and tell me about themselves and their business. Read their story below:
How did you arrive at your business name?
Erin: Cucubau means Peakaboo in Romanian. My husband is Romanian, and my daughter used to say cucubau a lot when she was learning how to speak.
Jackie: My family has French roots, and I had just come back from France when I realized that Cucubau means the same thing in French that it does in Romanian, so its like a coming together of our two family heritages.
If you had to sum up your business in one sentence what would it be?
Erin: Rare curated vintage kids clothes ages birth to 5 years.
Jackie: Reasonably priced North American made vintage finds for fashionable kids.
How did you come to start this business together?
Erin: Jackie and I met on maternity leave. Our kids August and Penelope were born a week apart, and when they met they really hit it off, so we all started hanging out together often. We discussed our childrens wardrobe a lot, coveting the others items, and asking details.
Jackie: It seemed whenever we discussed clothes that we were always really focused on the thrill of the hunt.
Erin: We bonded over the fact that we both grew up with moms who thrifted, and that we still loved thrifting.
Jackie: I really started pushing Erin to sell all the amazing stuff she was fiding at thrift stores, church sales, private sales and during her travels. I encouraged her to at least give Facebook marketplace and groups a try, because she really was finding some extraordinary stuff.
Erin: So I just suggested that we start a small online business together, and within two months of that conversation we launched our Instagram store.
How did you decide to run your store exclusively via Instagram?
Jackie: I was so sick of looking at the Facebook groups. It wasn’t a curated experience, it was tough on the eye and frankly I didn’t want to pick up things from strangers’ houses. I would rather pay for shipping.
Erin: We Did a lot of research on other feeds selling vintage clothes. We noticed that the clothes looked old, and the content wasn’t compelling. We wanted to combine vintage clothing imagery with lifestyle imagery so that the items didn’t feel old and dusty, and so that customers could imagine their children in them. We like to style their clothing the way it’s going to be worn, so you’ll see old and new mixed quite often on our feed. It gives the clothing new life.
What is unique about Cucubau Kids?
Erin: We look for vintage pieces that are currently in vogue. We won’t buy and sell something just because its vintage. It has to make sense for the modern child.
Jackie: We put a lot of time and care into every piece. I’m somewhat of a stain master, and Erin is a seamstress, so we make sure every piece is perfect before listing it for sale. We also focus heavily on North American made. There are a lot of brands that used to manufacture in the US or Canada, but don’t any longer. We like to seek out those North American made pieces and bring them back to the market.
Erin: We are also collectors, meaning we don’t put our stuff up for sale right away. If you’re looking for something specific you can contact us and chances are we might have it in storage. We recently started building a stash of vintage pieces from Toronto designers like Ellen Henderson, Peanut Power, Elvira Vali and Gay Togs. We just aren’t ready to release them yet.
Why would shoppers come to you instead of thrifting themselves?
Erin: It’s one thing to thrift. Thrift away! It’s another thing to collect, hunt, research and literally go to the ends of the earth for rare vintage finds no one else is likely to have. We do the hunting that the average person just doesn’t have time for.
Jackie: We are professional shoppers. Erin used to be a costume buyer for film and television, and we both grew up thrifting with our moms. We have done a ton of research into what makes something vintage, and there’s not always a lot of information out there, so we’ve really had to dig to make sure that each piece is unique and valuable. We research and piece together little bits of information to learn more about brands and their history.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to other moms who want to start their own business?
Jackie: If you’re interested in working with someone find a partner that you trust through and through. As moms, we have our plates full so trusting each other is paramount. I know I can trust Erin to fully do everything she says she is going to do, and that makes our business relationship so much easier. And expect that you will have days where you butt heads a bit, but butting heads can be a good thing.
Erin: Do something you love doing, because that definitely keeps us going. Don’t get in over your head at the beginning. We didn’t have a large overhead going into this, and we are just slowly chipping away at it.
How has being an entrepreneur and business owner affected your family life?
Erin: both of our husbands have businesses of their own, so they get it. We didn’t add anything to the mix that wasn’t recognizable.
Jackie: However, in the beginning it was hard for my husband. He wasn’t used to me having something to focus on after work. It was an adjustment in our household. It took about 6 months but now we are in our groove.
Erin: Ya, now that you say that, it was an adjustment for us too. It just added one more thing that forced us to find the balance for our lives.
Jackie: But they are super proud of us and encouraging. When things started rolling my husband was a little shocked like “oh shoot this is a good idea”
What’s next for Cucubau Kids?
Erin: We want to grow our followers @cucubaukids 😉 and keep expanding on what we are doing. We have a few new ideas for the future but right now it’s about focusing on audience growth so we can grow sales.
Jackie: We want to dominate! We often have big ideas, and I think that’s so important for entrepreneurship, not to get stuck on one path. So I think its about bringing some of those ideas to life.
Erin: One thing we want to do more of is collaborate with other businesses. Local Toronto businesses.
Jackie: Agreed, I would love to find an awesome Canadian brand to collaborate with.
What do you want to leave my readers with?
Jackie: We really want people to find an appreciation for vintage like we do. There’s so much overconsumption that happens in the children’s clothing market. Buy your kids some unique quality items that will last the test of time.
Erin: There’s so much waste! and the world needs to have less waste and make better quality pieces like it used to. We are aiming to attract people who not only want unique pieces for their children, but who are also environmentally conscience, and I think that’s a lot of millennial parents now.
I’ve been thinking about that last point a lot lately. It’s hard not to. With the startling reality that 26 billion pounds of our clothing and textiles go into landfills each year, conscious consumers are doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprint when it comes to the clothing industry. Thrifting and vintage have once again become very en-vougue. But what about children’s clothing? My son requires a new wardrobe almost every three months, and the items I’m putting away are often in brand new condition. This realization led me to thrifting more frequently for my son while buying key pieces from retailers like Cucubau Kids, who are doing their part to provide quality clothing with a conscience.
Be sure to check out and support this local mama duo on Instagram @cucubaukids, and as Erin mentioned, if you have your sights set on a particular vintage piece that you haven’t seen on their feed, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. You’ll encounter two extremely warm, engaging and friendly women who are passionate about finding you the pieces you covet.
Happy Shopping Mama’s.